Aging and the Environment

Environmental problems disproportionately impact young children and the elderly. Older people are affected because their mobility is reduced as they age, they suffer from medical conditions that are exacerbated by the weather, and they lack the resources to move or obtain help that can alleviate some of the worst climate change consequences.

Natural disasters hit the airwaves every couple of months. Whether the disaster is a tornado, hurricane, fire, or flood, some of the earliest casualties are seniors. The news reports almost always report that that deceased person lived alone. One wonders if they received the warnings in a timely manner, or worse, they were aware of the warnings but were unable to seek shelter or obtain assistance in time. Heat and air-pollution can kill people ahead of time.

The Union for Concerned Scientists released a list of global warming impacts and warn that rising temperatures will lead to increased air pollution, a longer and more intense allergy season, the spread of insect-borne diseases, heavier rainstorms and floods. All of these climate issues will impact the health of the people affected.

Heat waves

As spring begins and summer approaches, it is important to be mindful of climate issues that will affect older populations. Heat related illnesses, caused by a heat wave is a big concern during the summer, especially in big cities. Staying cool and comfortable, by drinking fluids, sponging off with a cool towel and moving away from hot spots outside or inside the home are three immediate activities that a person should do when a heat wave is announced or is happening.

How to keep a cool home

The following is a list of modifications that you can implement in your home to keep it cool on hot days:

  •   Change filters in the air conditioner.
  •   Use shades or drapes on sunny windows to keep the sunshine out.
  •   Use portable fans if air conditioning is not available in the rooms you use the most.
  •   Remain indoors or outside in the shade.

How to keep yourself cool

In addition to making sure your space is as cool as possible, you must keep yourself cool.

  •   Eat lightly and drink fluids. Avoid caffeine, alcohol drinks, and salt – these three substances can dehydrate you.
  •   Apply wet towels or cooling packs to wrists, face, and back of neck.

Air pollution

Elderly people have a higher risk of dying after short-term exposure to particulate air pollution and ozone, according to a new study from Harvard. Many older people suffer from respiratory diseases that affect their ability to breathe. It there are any irritants or toxic materials in the air, the person may go into respiratory distress.

Staying cool and breathing are the two things seniors should monitor as we enter the hot months of the year. Seek prompt medical attention if you experience heat-related illnesses, like overheating or a sun-stroke, or respiratory-related illnesses, like COPD. The worsening ozone layer increases the temperature and affects individuals ability to breathe.

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